A number of new policies were unveiled at the Tory Party Conference, which took place in Manchester at the start of October. The announcements will have a significant impact on those accused of immigration offences and activism. There are also proposals to increase the use of ankle tags amongst offenders.

New Policies To Combat Crime

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Announcements at the Tory Party conference

Changes are set to be made to the criminal justice system, as outlined at the recent Conservative Party conference. We have summarised these below to ensure our clients are kept up to date with the latest legal news.

The main changes relate to the following areas:

  • Violence against women
  • Immigration
  • Activism
  • Electronic tags
  • Community payback
  • Drug testing

Violence against women

An independent inquiry is to be carried out following the conviction of former policeman Wayne Couzens, who pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard. A report will investigate how Couzens was able to join the Metropolitan police, despite a history of indecent exposure. It will also consider what changes need to be made to the police force in terms of professional standards, vetting practices and workplace behaviour. A further inspection will be carried out to assess the force’s ability to detect and deal with misogynistic and predatory behaviour.

In addition, a task force has been set up to tackle violence against women and girls. A stand-alone domestic abuse strategy will also be launched later this year. Amongst other things, this will review the police management of registered sex offenders, ensuring they cannot return to the communities where the offences were committed.

Lastly, virginity testing on women and girls will become a criminal offence.

Proposed legal changes

The Government recently announced two proposed changes to criminal law and procedure.

The first relates to the taking of non-consensual photographs and video recordings of breastfeeding mothers. This will become a criminal offence where the motive is to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. It will be punishable by up to two years in prison.

The second relates to the amount of time available to bring a prosecution for domestic abuse. Ordinarily in assault cases, the prosecution must start proceedings no more than six months after the alleged offence (with the exception of assaults on emergency workers). Going forward, the government wants to extend this time limit to two years where the offence is committed in a domestic context

Immigration

The maximum penalty for entering the UK illegally will increase from six months’ imprisonment to four years. The maximum sentence for people smuggling will also increase from 14 years’ imprisonment to life.

A “New Plan for Immigration” will be implemented to speed up the removal process of those who have no right to remain.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has also said that boats containing asylum seekers will be turned back before reaching the UK coast. This is a highly controversial policy and has been described as “cruel and deadly” by the United Nations. It may also contravene international laws, which stipulate that every state requires its ships to help anyone who is found in danger at sea. It is not yet known how the UK government intends to enforce this policy lawfully.

Activism

There are plans to increase the maximum sentence for causing disruption on a motorway from a £1,000 fine to an unlimited fine, six months’ imprisonment or both. A new offence of interfering with critical national infrastructures could also be introduced. This will apply where the distribution of essential goods such as fuel and medicine is disrupted. The maximum sentence could be an unlimited fine, 12 months’ imprisonment or both

The police will be given additional powers to search protestors for “lock on” equipment – I.e., equipment that would prevent them from being moved on. It could also become illegal to lock on, or go equipped to lock on, where it causes (or is likely to cause) serious disruption. The maximum penalty would be an unlimited fine, six months’ imprisonment or both.

Criminal Disruption Prevention Orders have been proposed. These would enable the courts to impose restrictions on the activities of repeat offenders, those who repeatedly cause serious disruption or engage in criminal activity at a protest. This would prohibit those individuals from attending particular protests.

Electronic tags

The Justice Secretary Dominic Raab announced that he aims to double the number of offenders on electronic tags by 2025, particularly alcohol-monitoring tags. These are used on prison leavers who have committed offences under the influence of alcohol. There will also be a national roll-out of GPS tags fitted to prolific robbers, thieves and burglars, and to high-risk domestic abusers. In the latter case, location monitoring can help the Probation Service alert new partners.

Community payback

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab also said he wants to increase the number of community work undertaken by offenders to 8 million hours per year. There will be a particular focus on outdoor projects to improve the environment and to allow the public to see “justice being done”. This initiative is already underway with an agreement having been made with the Canal & River Trust. Offenders will be cleaning up miles of rivers and canals, clearing litter, tidying towpaths, and maintaining beauty spots. Offenders will have to wear a high visibility “Community Payback” tabard whilst working.

Drugs testing

There is a proposal to drugs test everyone who is arrested across all police forces. Those who test positive will be supported in tackling their addiction. Those who are unwilling to address the issue will face the “harshest possible legal sanctions and consequences”. The plan is to invest more than £15 million over four years to enable police to test suspects arrested for a broader range of offences and to build an evidence base of the links between drugs and criminality.

Have They Gone Far Enough

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